In this interview, Surgical Robotics Technology speaks with Chris Krasas, President and CEO at Carl Stahl Sava Industries (Sava), about his experience of supplying cables for surgical robots, the opportunities and challenges, and how Sava has adapted to become a leading and trusted partner in this industry.
How would you characterize the state of the market for surgical robotics mechanical cable right now?
Chris Krasas: It’s in a stage of innovative growth that’s driven by a merging of connectivity, robotic advances and digitization. The market is expected to grow from $4B in 2021, to $12B by 2025, with a compound annual growth rate of greater than 20%. Ultimately, that a surgeon can one day be seated in NYC, but conduct a surgical procedure in a country with scarcer healthcare resources, means health care without barriers and borders. The idea that a surgeon can connect to a system remotely and conduct a surgery with speed, improved outcomes and increasing precision is incredibly exciting. Surgeon efficiency, meaning more surgeries per day, decreased hospitalization time and safer outcomes, makes the market rife for the kinds of growth that’s projected.
How did you prepare to support the proliferation of surgical robotics makers over the last few years?
Chris Krasas: Sava’s been serving medical markets for decades, so we know the category well. This has always been a market that we’ve cared about. Even if the cable solution takes months or years to develop, it is meaningful and rewarding to see how we impact human progress and human health. We have spent a great deal of time with lean manufacturing concepts, improving toward a mindset that our efficiencies will help us towards growth. Surgical robotics market growth brings together a formula where productivity, innovation and leadership come together and that is exciting.
Sava has also had to invest in itself to scale-up.
With the years of listening to the markets and our customers, and understanding how our cable meets customer needs, we’ve executed an aggressive capital plan to focus and scale to customer projections – first on the cable stranding side of the business, and then followed-up with innovation on internally-developed automation.
On the engineering side, Sava has been able to leverage and focus our expertise on tungsten cable to help our customers with solutions to their sophisticated designs. That the surgical robotics space is using tungsten cable, to achieve motion, makes our early decision to perfect our expertise with the material a smart calculation. I’m confident that Sava’s customer value proposition is best-in-class, as we really spend the time during this phase with our customers.
How are you spending time with your customers, as you put it, “in this phase?”
Chris Krasas: In many cases, our surgical robotics customers are deep in the throes of an R&D progression. Sava perceives itself as an R&D partner, not simply a maker of mechanical cable assemblies. We have an agile requirement gathering process. As I mentioned, in many cases, our customers are in the early stages of developing their robotic surgical system. So, if we want to provide a cable solution that makes them successful, it must respect their time, while solving their problems.
The outcome of achieving this with speed is that our customers will reward us with loyalty and longevity. We’ve adapted our operations by sharing awareness of customer needs amongst several of our teams, while also rolling-out productivity tools to keep projects visible, organized and communications connected. This allows Sava to exhibit a passionate customer-centric project experience for tomorrow’s robot makers.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve confronted providing mechanical cable for surgical robotics makers?
Chris Krasas: Scalability. As our customers cable needs get smaller, with tighter tolerances, we have had to adapt to new manufacturing demand, while level-loading existing manufacturing work to minimize bottlenecks and resource constraints. As surgical robotics makers move through product discovery, testing and delivery, working together in a collaborative way, across our entire organization is crucial.
Very early on, we brought together key personnel to prepare our people for this challenge, while also meeting pent-up demand from last year’s slowdown. As we grow to meet these challenges, speaking with data, forecasting and project management are all areas that we’re improving upon.
Planning, in anticipation of all possible scenarios, is the best way to stay grounded as the surgical robotics market continues to grow. We use data to inform us of the total size, and scope of the market, as it goes through its evolution.
What have you learned between day one supporting the surgical robotics market, to now, being deeply in the middle of supplying cables for it?
Chris Krasas: When a market is growing at a 20% compound growth rate, with universalization an open constraint, we have had to be selective in undertaking the “right” projects. Internally, our people really care about their results and fellow teammates. So, the more we can be transparent about our plans – with our people – the more we can meet market demands because it eliminates any potential that fear gathers around the watercooler.
For our organization, we’ve had to rethink everything from people and what they work on, to purchasing and internally developing the right machinery. So, how we collaborate and execute has been felt by every department and has informed our pipeline decisions.
As a midmarket manufacturer, it was important to me to have buy-in from our entire operations teams on a one-to-one basis to ensure everyone rows in the same direction.
As CEO, the first step was to create and reinforce a vision and make sure I continually remind our teams what we are really driving towards. For our industry, we’ve gone from vision and ideas, to execution and speed at a very quick pace.
What makes supporting surgical robotics engineers a unique experience and how, if at all, have you had to adapt operations to support them?
Chris Krasas: Sava understands that our surgical robotics engineering customers are striking a clever balance between getting their robot into the marketplace as swiftly as possible, while staying sensitive to how complex these tungsten cable assemblies are.
Our surgical robotics customers know that we get it.
We have worked feverishly to perfect a collaborative experience that shows the customer that we too can strike the same creative balance between go-to-market urgency, and working with, tungsten, one of the most temperamental cable materials.
What is next for Sava servicing this evolving market?
Chris Krasas: My hope is that our contribution to the market makes us the standard bearer for what surgical robotics designers grow to expect from their motion actuation cable assemblies.